I am coming a bit late to this interesting thread which was started by Bill Waller's request for help in finding where Veblen used the phrase "social provisioning" to describe the subject of economic inquiry. It is
worthwhile, I think, to recognize that it was when Gary Becker and his army of post-WWII neoclassical true believers began to advocate for "economic imperialism" that the emphasis on provisioning as the appropriate focus of Economics came to be seen as clearly
of great importance in a number of areas, including Feminist Economics, some parts of Economic Sociology, Economic Anthropology, and, of course the Original Institutional Economics. Polanyi's 1944 book, THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION also focussed attention on
the contrast between the "substantivist" (provisioning) and "formalist" definitions of Economics.
Looking backward it is important and interesting to see that Veblen used social provisioning to define Economics and is further evidence of the depth of his understanding of the barriers that would stand in the way of making economics a truly evolutionary and scientific discipline. It is also interesting that Gruchy, whose use of provisioning has been noted,was in front of the post-WWII formalists when he recognized the dangers of the Marshallian elements of Keynesian economics that were unwittingly being accepted by Institutionalists who found compatability between aspects of OIE macroeconomics and the Keynesianism of the late 40s and 1950s.
The importance of the provisioning definition is brought into sharp relief by Roger Backhouse and Steve Medema in an article entitled "Defining Economics: The Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition" that was
published in ECONOMICA in 2009 (vol. 26).
Does anyone know off hand where Veblen defines economics as the study of social provisioning?
Alas, I am away from home and my library.
Helen Cam Visiting Fellow
Cambridge, CB3 0JG
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Economics
Director of Wine Studies
Department of Economics
300 Pulteney Street
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, New York 14456-3397
Phone: 315 781-3433
Fax: 315 781-3422
email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:waller@ hws.edu>
[log in to unmask]<mailto:wtw22@ cam.ac.uk>